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Read Original Story

Drugmakers develop pill to boost female sexual desire


2 Star

Drugmakers develop pill to boost female sexual desire

Our Review Summary

This story reports on a new drug, flibanserin, that is being touted by some as "Female Viagra." Preliminary study results were reported at the 12th Congress of the European Society in Sexual Medicine in Lyon, France.  The studies were sponsored by the drug’s manufacturer and have not been published in peer reviewed scientific journals.  The drug is reported to help pre-menopausal woman with acquired hypoactive sexual desire disorder, a somewhat controversial diagnosis. The story is general, provides few facts and relies on interviews to present the drug in a positive light.  The story fails to address the key issue of whether low sexual desire in pre-menopausal women is a condition being promoted by pharmaceutical manufacturers to create a market for a new drug and to sell more drugs.  In the end the story focuses on one finding without placing it in context for the reader.  The story noted that women taking flibanserin had a significant increase in "sexually satisfying events" compared to women taking placebo.  What the story failed to note is that in absolute terms the women taking flibanserin had an average increase of 1.7 "sexually satisfying events" over the course of 6 months compared to an average increase of 1 event in women taking placebo. While this result is statistically significant, the medical or individual significance appears to be quite small.  Overall, the story failed to present both sides of the story or adequate detail to give the reader the bigger picture.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No cost data was provided for flibanserin.  But an estimate of the potential U.S. market, up to $100 million in sales, was given.  Those sales estimates had to be based on some price assumptions.  What where they?   It doesn’t seem that you should provide the one number without providing the other. How might the cost of flibanserin compare to the cost of drugs to treat erectile dysfunction?

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

Most of the benefits reported in the story were described in general, lay terms: having more sex, wanting more sex and experiencing less distress related to lack of desire.  The only detailed benefit reported in the story was the result of 2 clinical trials in 1,378 women that reported a 22% increase in "satisfying sexual experiences" compared to women taking a placebo.  "Satisfying sexual events" was not defined and the 22% is not accurate based upon the data presented in the research abstracts. The story should have placed any benefits in context and noted that while results were statistically significant the medical or individual significance appears to be quite small.  For example, the story should have noted that women taking flibanserin had an average increase of 1.7 "sexually satisfying events" over the course of 6 months compared to an average increase of 1 event in women taking placebo. 

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No adverse effects of the drug were reported in the story.  Safety data reported indicates that potential side effects include dizziness, nausea, fatigue, somnolence, and insomnia.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

This article cites very little medical or scientific evidence.  It cites some general results of 1 of 4 abstracts of preliminary research presented at a recent scientific meeting.   The story failed to report important details such as  the length of the study, 24 weeks, or that women took a once daily pill at bedtime.  Results were not presented in absolute terms and were inaccurately calculated in relative terms.  The story should have noted that more reliable information would have come from more rigorous research published in peer-referred scientific journals.  

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

This story misses the mark by failing to address the larger issue of whether acquired hypoactive sexual desire disorder in pre-menopausal women is a condition being promoted by pharmaceutical manufacturers to create a market for a new drug and to sell more drugs. Is interest in this drug based upon the hugely successful marketing of Viagra and other drugs for erectile dysfunction?  Instead of addressing these issues the story focuses on the potential benefits of flibanserin and relies mainly on interviews (See Evidence comments) to provide information.  The story acknowledges that sexual desire, anxiety and satisfaction is multi-factorial and in many cases cannot be helped by a pill. However, commenting on the economic costs of divorce presumably attributed to a woman’s low sexual desire blames women.  

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The information in this story comes primarily from expert interview and quotes from a representative of the drug manufacturer. But there was no comment on whether any of the expert interviewees had financial ties to the drug maker. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


This story correctly indicates that there are no drugs currently approved to to treat acquired hypoactive sexual desire disorder in pre-menopausal women.  The story does acknowledge that hyposexual desire disorder is multi-factorial and that a drug would not address other contributing factors. 

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The article accurately states that flibanserin is an experimental drug and is not FDA approved or commercially available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


This story is accurate in stating that if approved, flibanserin would be the first drug of its kind for pre-menopausal women.  It does acknowledge that other efforts to produce a similar drug have been unsuccessful.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can’t judge the extent to which the story may have been influenced by a news release. 

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory


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